Release and reward Don’t get too ‘dressage-y’
Everyone tries to manufacture the horses too much and make them go a certain way, but then they never actually learn to go for themselves’
WATCHING DEVON warm up, Sean cautions her not to get overly ‘dressage-y’ and restrict her horse too much in front to start (below). He gets Devon to ride some walk-trot transitions and is quick to correct her when she pulls her horse into a frame.
“The first thing you started to do was get him in a headlock,” he observes. He tells Devon to vibrate the inside rein until her horse is happily in a soft frame in walk, then release the rein and move up into trot. “When he submits, you soften up into trot and keep your hand nice and soft,” he explains. “See – now you don’t have 50kg in your hand. A second ago, you were going to have that 50kg for the whole trotting circle.” It’s not a case of having no contact at all, says Sean, but just making sure you are soft when you need to be.
Sean also reminds Devon not to drill her horse for too long. With young horses, he says, it’s important to do a little bit of work and then give them a break; a little bit more work and then another break. “If you keep hammering the same thing, sometimes you end up going for half an hour without really getting it,” he explains. “But it’s funny, if you stop and walk for five minutes and then try again, you get it. Sometimes when we get so determined and try too hard the horse gets a bit confused and so do we! With the young ones you have to do little stints.”
With Devon’s softer hand, Sean is much happier with the way Chez is going. Instead of fighting he’s just on the bit and relaxed with his ears pricked, says Sean (above).
“He’s actually starting to move better in front – can you see that?” he observes. “His shoulder is able to work now you’re not strangling him. You want to encourage him to go forwards first and then work him, rather than strangling him.”
After some good, consistent trot work, Sean tells Devon to come back to walk, give her horse a pat, let him stretch his neck and ‘be a horse’.